Most of you would have read the famous book, 'Who Moved my Cheese'. At a time when 'Change Management' is a major buzzword, the book is often prescribed as a self-help book in the corporate world to drive down the importance of adapting to change. Yeah, I did my bit of reading this book while I was undergoing training at my first employer Infosys, just after I turned 22. Since the book describes the otherwise drab topic through the story of some mice stuck in a maze, it is pretty interesting to read. The crux of the book is that change is supposed to happen. Instead cribbing about it and doing nothing, we should develop a will to accept it and move forward. And as a young professional at that time, I was told to just swallow the fact just as children are told not to do certain things. Accept change, no questions asked. Period.
So naturally, I was intrigued when I got hold of Mr.Deepak Malhotra's book, 'I Moved your Cheese' . As a Harvard professor, I had already been awed by some of his videos and lectures (I've subscribed to the Harvard Youtube channel). I think I should apologise for another aspect. The book had been given to me by my dad almost 2 years back, but as the author was not well-known, I had not given much attention to it. It just lay in my library untouched until I start listening to Mr.Malhotra's lectures and classes online. That's when I get awed and realize sadly that I hadn't so far paid much attention to his book in my library. Reading in the Prologue of the book, that you don't have to accept change and that there's no fault in asking questions left me even more intrigued. I decided its high time that I got another perspective on the topic, especially from someone who has years and years of experience teaching conflict management, negotiation skills and is one of the best professors at one of the best schools in the world.
One of the major argument by the author is that, accepting change is fine, but innovation and out-of-the-box thinking doesn't happen under such closed environments. He clearly says that his intention is not to refute the arguments made in the original book, but merely to add another dimension to it, just as a corollary or an appendix. The same approach of story telling as the original book is adopted in this book, depicting the lives of mice in a maze. Where the original book contrasted the lives of two mice where one adapted to change and the other did not, Mr.Malhotra's story has 3 Heroes and gives three completely different perspectives on dealing with change; I think there could be more! You don't have to take for granted that change happens; it's okay to ask why it happened even if no one is prepared to answer it. Think! Question! Innovate! Succeed!
The basic story line in the book (as in the original one) is that there are some mice stuck in a maze and their cheese keeps changing locations every now and then. The mice have resigned to the fact that due to some 'inexplicable' reason, their food keeps changing locations and fending for this food has become one of the most important rituals in their lives - 'Accept the change in location and look for the new location'. In this context, let me now introduce the three main characters of this story and how each of them dealt with this change in their own special ways.
Max - Max is very curious mouse who attempts to know why things happen the way they do. He doesn't want to accept the status quo; he wants to be a part of the change. So he keeps questioning the elders in the maze as to why the cheese keeps changing its location, but no one is prepared to answer his questions. They think he's a nuisance who runs around asking useless questions, the ones that have NO answers. But Max's nature doesn't let him be a puppet in the hands of others (who ever was inducing this change). He kept on trying to escape from the maze. He studies each and every nook and corner of the maze, tried to identify its vulnerabilities, always looking for an escape route. Another important aspect of his quest is that he tries to utilize all the resources at hand (his intellect, his companions whom he thinks can help him get away) to get his way. He thinks logically, asks questions and constantly looks for practical ways to get out of the maze.
Zed - Zed is very much evolved in terms of his attitude. For him, the maze is not a constraint as his attitude towards the situation in the maze (change) is different from other mice. 'He refuses to live within the maze or have a maze within him', which means that he is not affected by change. Change is what your mind makes of it; if you fear it, it's going to be terrifying...else, it's going to treat you well. It's all in the mind, according to Zed. The result is that he is unaffected by what happens in the maze. He can get out and come back when ever he wants because it's just a matter of his state of mind. To him, the maze is not something that restricts his movements or controls his life. Zed has the fortitude to not see the maze as a restriction.
Big - Big is a mouse who is very health conscious and is a body builder (Yes, I was amused too!). He is alright with anything that happens in the maze for as long as he can do what he likes. Compared to his passion for body building, the change in the maze is nothing and he's completely unaffected. But the moment he realizes that the changes in the maze is making it difficult to pursue his interests, the maze becomes a burden to him. Big is a very goal oriented mouse and the environment (change) doesn't affect him for as long as he can continue with his passion. The moment the environment (change) conflicts with his goal, he breaks down the barrier (literally! Mind it, he's a strong mouse) and gets out.
All three of them end up escaping from the maze. Max found a way to get out of the maze to the human world and unraveled the reason why the cheese kept changing its location. Since he was now technically outside the maze, on most days, he would find himself secretly (without the humans knowing) changing the location of the cheese just so he could be the controller for once and not the controlled. Hence the name of the book, 'I Moved your Cheese'. Zed would keep moving in and out of the maze as he willed; the maze couldn't restrict him both physically and mentally. Big ended up breaking the barrier of the maze when the situation in the maze got out of control and started hindering his goals. Whereas the rest of the mice accepted change and acted as puppets in the hands of some invisible controllers, these brave heroes refused to do just that. And what did they gain? Freedom from the shackles of uncertainty and the ability to use 'change' to fulfill their purpose (and not let change get the better of them). The author's aim was to bring in a different perspective to the idea of dealing with change, it's up to the reader to choose how they want to respond to change. As the famous quote says, 'your life is 13% what happens to you (change) and 87% how you respond to it'!